7 Things Your Client Needs to Hear You Say

Girl receiving therapy
People with SAD need extra reassurance during therapy. Getty / Hill Street Studios

If you are a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional treating individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD), you have a unique responsibility to ensure that your client is comfortable.

While professionals who regularly treat individuals with social anxiety will be attuned to this need, if you lack this experience, you may not quite understand the importance of these needs within therapy.

If you haven't experienced social anxiety yourself, try to consider what it would feel like to be that client.

Clients with social anxiety often have trouble even initiating contact with a therapist. Thus, it is critically important that their first experiences be positive, non-judgmental, and welcoming.

This is, of course, part of building rapport during treatment.

Below are seven things that your client with social anxiety needs to hear you say.

1. "I have experience treating social anxiety disorder."

Hopefully, this is true for you. Clients with social anxiety have needs that are different even from those with other types of anxiety disorders. Having experience treating this specific disorder will give confidence to your client that you can help her as well.

2. "This isn't all in your head."

Never diminish any of the concerns of your client with social anxiety. While their fears may be exaggerated or baseless, they are nevertheless the source of much pain and anguish.

Acknowledge and validate how your client is feeling.

3. "I have group therapy that you can join."

If you specialize in social anxiety, consider offering group therapy to broaden the experiences in which your clients can participate. The disorder is particularly suited to group therapy, as it gives individuals the chance to both practice addressing social fears among other people, and also realize that they are not alone in their feelings.

4. "I am going to teach you how to maintain what you learn here outside therapy."

An effective therapist will teach individuals with social anxiety how to maintain the gains made during therapy on their own afterward. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful to this end, in that the client learns to identify issues and solve them independently.

5. "This is a problem that can be fixed."

Often, those with social anxiety don't realize that there are solutions to the distress that they feel. Reassure your client that effective treatment exists, and that it does not have to take years for him to start feeling better.

6. "The therapy I use is evidence-based."

Ensure the treatment that you provide is based on evidence from the scientific literature. Talk to your client about how the treatment has been evaluated, what the odds are that she will improve by receiving treatment, and rates of remission. Be open about sharing what you know about the treatment you are offering.

7. "I will provide thorough information about any medication that is prescribed."

If you are a psychiatrist prescribing medication, provide as much information as possible to your client. Discuss potential side effects, the importance of following doctor's orders and not stopping medication on your own, and relevant dosage information.

Most professionals don't need this advice. However, if you are just starting out treating individuals with social anxiety disorder, it is important to keep these tips in mind. Most importantly, network with other professionals who have experience treating this group, keep current with regard to the literature, and consider attending relevant conferences to learn about ongoing research firsthand.

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